albums - july 2005
Davis – Details
With Details, Richard Davis has delivered an album chock full of clinical,
exquisitely ‘detailed’ (ahem), production. All puns aside, for the time
being anyway, the skill with regard to the production on this album is
astounding. It sounds as if an infinite amount of time has been spent on
perfecting each kick drum or vocal line or hi-hat, (for me this album has
been worth getting to know purely on the basis of how good this guy's
hi-hats are…). It’s not often I’m so drawn in the by the style of an album
that I have to focus consciously on the content.
Don’t get me wrong, Davis has a wonderful
knack of writing catchy, dubby basslines, it’s just that his melancholy
tinged vocal delivery often lacks sufficient emotion to add weight to his
words and feels quite sterile. Perhaps this is because Davis often seems to
employ his voice more as an instrument than a voice with which to convey
specific emotion through the words he uses. Davis’ singing voice sounds like
Karl Hyde of Underworld, at times he almost slips into speaking the vocal
parts and his English accent is clear to hear. I quite like that.
It’s difficult to pick out particular tunes
worthy of mention as the whole album blends into one smooth trip. I have to
confess that having listened to this album a number of times I was ready to
dismiss it as dull and uninspiring - then I listened to it through
headphones. This made me reassess my opinion rather a lot but then I am a
sucker for good production values.
I could imagine slipping this album on after
dinner in my swanky townhouse for some easy listening background music (if I
was into ‘easy’ music to put on in the background and had a swanky
townhouse). The use of strings, guitar and piano lend the album an air
of…well, sophistication I guess. Which brings me to the nagging question I
get in the back of my mind when I’m listening to Details: Is this ‘coffee
table’ deep house?
The Decemberists –
‘Picaresque’ (Rough Trade)
Long after its US release Decemberist fans this side of the pond will soon
be able to enjoy their new record ‘Picaresque’ and enjoy it they will.
we have come to expect from this band of present day minstrels, ‘Picaresque’
is a collection of tales and fables related through song. They can be full
of pomp and bombast as on opener ‘The Infanta’ or be stripped back and bleak
like ‘Eli, The Barrow Boy’. Each has its own unique tone and depth and it’s
hard not to be drawn into this bizarre world created for you through a host
of vintage instrumentation and Colin Meloy’s earnest, frank voice. There is
love lost and woe to be told of and trust me you will be hanging off every
word of each irresistible tale, none more so than album highlight ‘The
Mariner’s Revenge Song’, a shanty told by a man trapped in the belly of a
whale with the object of his intended revenge. It, like most of the record,
is haunting, funny and utterly compelling. A grandiose little gem.
red.star.line - s/t (Pronoia)
Pronoia come up trumps with another goodie this month. Album opener '
Commercial Suicide' demonstrates all the qualities which I remember from
red.star.line's single 'Centerville' - fuzzed-up dirty guitars and great
swirling swathes of atmospheric rock like Dinosaur Jnr in their pomp.
Occasional dalliances with
sub-Zeppelin style old fashioned rock 'n' roll and ballads which don't
work for me can be forgiven as the bulk of the record is full of foot-stompingly
good tracks. Talking of stomping, I'm not sure why or how, but the drums
production seems to have been run through a 13 tog duvet in the wash and
comes out intriguingly muffled but surprisingly driving. It shouldn't work,
but it does. And there are even glimpses of early Therapy? inspired punk
metal on tracks like 'Pure' that really get the feet twitching.
The vocal weaknesses
that existing on the single are still there and their flatness still gets on
my nerves a bit. But there is enough material on this album to dip in and
out of that getting bored should not be a problem.
Cub Country –
‘Stay Poor, Stay Happy’ (Broken Horse)
It seems like a lifetime ago that Cub Country released their first record
‘High Uinta High’ of which I was a huge fan. In fact that was 2002 and half
way through 2005 we have Cub Country’s (AKA Jeremy Chatlain of Jets to
Brazil fame) new album ‘Stay Poor, Stay Happy’ a collection of Americana
tinged folk songs in a similar vain to the likes of Josh Rouse.
like ‘Good Job Jer Blues’ or ‘If You Should Fall’ I’m reminded of why I
found the first Cub Country record so compelling. Chatlain is able to
construct cunningly simple sounding songs that just seem to creep into your
subconscious. This is true of a large chunk of the record but sadly not all.
For all the simple melodies and earnest appeal there is a streak of mild
banality that occasionally sneaks out, a problem that befalls much of this
genre (in particular that of Rouse!).
its better moments ‘Stay Poor, Stay Happy’ is sweet and honest but alas this
sincerity can drift towards boredom.
Jonathan Geer - Essex
Not a Burberry cap or a customised Ford Fiesta in sight thank christ. Greer
hails from Texas and his music is based around what sound like compositions
for movie sound tracks. in fact, a lot of them are movie soundtracks and he
has collaborated with a number of artists in the Dallas area.
Some of the tracks remind me
of some of the early Moby stuff - the type of music which can be turned to
instantly as a backdrop for an advert or any other activity which may
require some aural wallpaper. It feels odd listening to the Gregorian-style
chants in 'Essex Theme' without watching some windswept, misty landscape or
seeing a scene from 'The Machinist'. Maybe this is an indictment on our
society's constant need for stimulation in that we cannot concentrate on one
sense alone long enough to gain any real value from it. But in just the same
way as reading a difficult classic is less accessible but ultimately more
rewarding than flicking through the latest Barbara Cartland, if you stick
with this record, some real depth begins to emerge.
At times the airy keyboards
and artificial strings sound a bit retro (probably because Moby has done
them to death). But on other tracks such as 'The waiting Room', the
production is deliberately grainy and, to return to the visual references,
it is the audible equivalent of watching a flaky old black and white film.
This album will
definitely not be to everyone's tastes and wouldn't exactly make suitable
dinner party music as a cunning interpretation of the 'Psycho' shower
stabbing scene cuts across the hors d'heuves in 'The Attack'. But if you
enjoy atmospheric musical soundscapes rather than 3 minute pop songs then
this may well be rewarding.
Cantrell – ‘Humming By The Flowered Vine’ (Matador)
Its on Matador, it features those wonderful chaps from Calexico, it has got
to be good, right? Wrong. This is the meaning of MOR and is essentially a
slice of bland country for people who aren’t that bothered about what music
they listen to providing whatever it is reasonably pretty and inoffensive. A
small step up from Norah Jones I’m afraid.
James Apollo - Good Grief
Poor James Apollo's second album and his beautifully packaged manilla press
pack had fallen foul of the UK's Royal Mail service and had been impounded
on a dusty shelf somewhere in South Leeds for a month before I eventually
got hold of it. But as he states himself, beauty can spring from such
sadness and it is with this thought in mind that we gave it a spin.
Very much in the Americana deep west mould,
this album could almost be a narration of gigging on the road in a
Steinbeckian landscape. You can almost see the tumbleweed and smell the
stale bourbon. Apollo possesses a distinctive rasping voice, like Bryan
Adams without the pomp and his lyrics should have you in tears. Song titles
like 'Dead Men Weigh More [than broken hearts]', 'Long Rope' and
'Loneliness' would hardly get the party going but they do possess a wistful
beauty that stops short of being maudlin. If I'd killed my wife and was
driving south to cross the border, this would be my soundtrack of choice.
Stevens – ‘Illinois’ (Rough Trade)
Ladies and Gentlemen, please settle yourselves, I have some very exciting
news. No its not that they are finally repeating Magnum including that last
episode where he dies (you wish!). In fact it’s much better than that.
Sufjan Stevens is back and he’s brought with him the second of “The 50
States” records! Hoorah!
that’s right we have the return of Mr. Stevens, one of the music worlds most
ambitious songwriters currently producing records for the listening public,
with ‘Illinois’ a record based around the people, legends, myths and facts
about the state in America of the very same name. It brings together
elements of his previous records ‘Michigan’ and ‘Seven Swans’, with their
honest and hushed beauty, and adds a much more pronounced sense of joy and
wonderment. Its boundaries seem to be none exist and can feel operatic at
one time and like traditional folk music the next.
all his previous work the songs Stevens has constructed on ‘Illinois’ are
deeply routed in human emotions, both his own and the telling of others. The
subject matter dealt with is broad from ‘John Wayne Gacy’ taking a stark and
terrifyingly beautiful look at one of Americas most famous serial killers
through diagnoses of Bone Cancer to his own celebration of his love for the
city of ‘Chicago’ in a song of the same name. All are handled with a dynamic
and accomplished sense of song and composition. In fact it is this that will
elevate Stevens and ‘Illinois’ above the heads and shoulders of his
contemporaries. The fact of the matter is that in ‘Illinois’ we have the
closest thing to that pocket symphony thing that Brian Wilson was always
harping on about. Yes really, it's that good.
Sufjan Stevens is simply
one of the greatest songwriters currently producing music. He possesses a
depth and breadth simply not found in most others and his songs display real
beauty and truth alongside elaborately told stories. Cross one space off
your ‘Best of 2005’ lists folks because ‘Illinois’ has already filled one of
Viarosa - Where the
Killers Run (Pronoia)
Building on the earlier success of 'Porous', this full length album from
Viarosa brings us more from Richard Neuberg and his cohort of seemingly
slightly deranged band members. Not deranged in a pyscho way, more like a
friendly tramp who sees the world in a slightly different way from the hoi
polloi like you and I.
The layered strings and
wistful, world weary male-female vocals are still very much in evidence but
this longer format allows Viarosa to experiment further with their sound,
without ever becoming ponderous. There are bleak but beautiful masterpieces
such as 'Boy' and the instrumental 'The Violet Hour' but also room for the
inspirational 'Wake' which, with Neuberg's deep vocals and intricate guitar
work, could be a latter day Screaming Trees.
Yet another album by
a fantastic band who do not bow to the commercial pressures of the modern
music industry. As such, my guess is most people will still not have heard
of Viarosa by the end of the year. But if you have been fortunate enough to
hear this record then you will cherish it.
Autolux - Future Perfect
Kevin Shields must be
livid. Not only have L.A 3 piece Autolux made an album that screams with
intensity and colossal waves of WHITE NOISE, they don’t even sound like
they’re trying. In the slightest.
Echoing Spacemen 3’s sonic
assaults, their effortless, perfectly crafted drone-pop crashes into you
with gale force intensity, forcing you to turn the speakers up to ear
bleeding levels. They don’t even make the timeless mistake of drawing
each song to a prolonged and needless jazzturbate end, instead leaving you
proudly howling the chorus over the tangled white noise climax. Even
better, on stand out track ‘Sugarless,’ the band have dipped into Kevin
Shields bag of magnetic riffs, pulling out the never released, best of My
Bloody Valentine. On their first album.
The pressure never drops
below skull fucking either. ‘Blanket’ has tidal wave guitar screeches
that defy explanation while the Beach Boy vocals make it the darkest
summer hit on record. Added to the pulsating ‘Plantlife,’ a reverb heavy
belter that creeps up and lashes you with thunderbolt guitar squalls and
you have an album that jolts your senses, caressing and crushing in equal
Sublime and majestic, Autolux have created an album the whole world has
been waiting 10 years to hear. Just don’t tell Kevin.
America Is Waiting - 'In the Lines' (August Spies Collective)
'In the Lines' is released by August Spies Collective, an offshoot of the
magnificent Captains of Industry label. And if you have heard anything of
COI then you will know what to expect - hi energy, loud punk-pop-indie-rock
with a DIY ethic.
don't often have any duff releases and it seems that August Spies Collective
is starting off in the same vein. America is Waiting are from deepest Texas
apparently but they clearly had a full set of records from the east coast's
Fugazi when they were growing up. Instrumentation, melodies and vocal
harmonies are extremely similar in many places. If you are going to sound
like someone else then you may as well make it sound like the best. 'In the
Lines' is a throbbing political beast of a record that seldom lets you stop
to draw breath, let alone decipher the political message.
If you missed out on
Fugazi first time around and want a sharpened up, fearless and unremitting
version fit for the 21st century then look no further. if you are looking
for the new Muse, then go and read NME.
Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die (Moshi Moshi)
Like The Arcade Fire before them, Architecture in Helsinki have received
massive hype before the event. However, tasty is here to reassure you that
the hype is justified. ‘In Case We Die’ is one of the best debut albums I’ve
This is a band who’ve been compared to Hidden Cameras and Talking Heads,
among others, but on this evidence they’re better than both of them put
together, times ten, to the power of five. Indeed, there’s a couple of songs
half way through this awesome album – ‘The Cemetry’ and ‘Frenchy, I’m
Faking’ that are so damn cute that I think I’ve fallen totally in love with
this band forever.
sound? Imagine Huggy Bear playing the hits of The Lucksmiths with a brass
band in the background. Yes, that saucy.
Architecture in Helsinki make me wish I was 18 years old again, and hadn’t
been subjected to all the shite that life can throw at you, because if I’d
heard this 14 years ago, I wouldn’t have cared what happened next. This is
all you need, believe me.
Damage - Velocity (Red Letter)
Damage sound nothing like America is Waiting. The
press release for this Orange County based three piece is a bit confusing.
Apparently Orange county is 'a hot bed for some of the country's most
dynamic and progressive new sounds' yet they sound like Stone Temple Pilots
from ten years ago. They are 'aggressively DIY' yet charter a luxury bus
'loaded with beer and [sic] booze and hot looking girls'. It's not exactly
the same as travelling up the M1 in the back of a transit van borrowed from
your brother's mate Geoff, trying not to be sick as the smell from the leaky
petrol tank combines with the remnants of the greasy burger you had to buy
next door to the venue because you had five minutes between unloading, sound
checking and playing.
So if you fancy some reasonably good west coast rock
with very much a sanitised Brendan O Brien type production sound, then fill
your boots. There are moments of real promise and a reasonably taut pace all
the way through. The warbling gruff vocals so beloved of US soft rock bands
began to get on my nerves after a couple of tracks but if you can get over
that then you may well survive to finish that burger.
Funeral For A Friend –Hours
Jeepers, FFAF are angry young pups. They don’t piss about here, it’s
straight on with the Fisher Price emo. And is it just me, or is the same
riff circulating throughout this dreary album? There is absolutely nothing
lovely, nothing to cherish, nothing remotely pop here, just a cold wall of
noise. Maybe that’s what they set out to do. But I’m too old to be angsty…well
most of the time, anyway. File under ‘Mum, can I paint by bedroom walls
Robert Temple and his Soul-Folk Ensemble - What Would You Do? (Broken
With a description like 'Soul-Folk Ensemble', alarm bells should be ringing.
This is the stuff of countless Jools Holland sessions while the dwarfish one
tinkles away on the electric piano and duets with the finger picking guitar
players. But beneath this obvious description lies an overtly political
album, full of biting lyrics (though in places this spills over into the
cringeworthily obvious such as in title track 'What Would You Do'.)
This kind of
lounge-based 'soul-funk' instantly gets me thinking of men in suits sipping
drinks at red velvet covered tables, gently tapping their feet along to the
tunes. Which is why the content of the lyrics is perhaps so arresting. Good
for Robert Temple in trying to raise some awareness/documenting the current
woes of the world. But musically, this breaks no new ground and could be
easily consigned to a late night slot on Radio 3.
Records - Sampler Compilation (Sartorial)
This is a sampler for Sartorial records, a label I’ve never heard of, but a
way for Terry Edwards and friends to bring their music to us, via
www.terryedwards.com. Clearly Edwards loves music and maybe this record
suffers from its wanton diversity but it’s only £4.99 and you should buy it
for the instrumentals, particularly Asthma, a sauntering brooding number,
this is Ska you’d want to screw to. A couple of Madness turn up in
BUtterfield 8 and provide more instrumental brilliance. There’s a speed
metal version of Miles Davis. Lydia Lynch turns up on a couple of tracks.
One I admit I hated but the other ‘I like my lowlife low’ is outrageous and
stunning. The ‘Higson’s’ (The comedian Charlie Higson’s former band) also
provide some songs but I’m afraid this more of a case of don’t call us,
we’ll call you. Edward’s saxophone playing is magnificent, whether wrapping
round Lynch’s panting or leading the band in a vocal style.
you not to find something you like on this record, it’s chaos but
undoubtedly stupendous and I’m glad it’s in my life.
Project - Brave (Chocolate Fireguard)
The world can be a weird place. Wakefield's The Bluefoot Project are
marketed by Beverly Hills-based Luck Media who sent this CD to Leeds (just a
few miles away from Wakefield) all the way from the US.
The band have received rave reviews for
their live sets and early reviews of this album. I'm afraid I'm not a
massive fan, though 'Brave' would make for agreeable holiday music. My main
beef is the very strength of the voice of singer Rachel Modest. She surely
does have a powerful delivery which would be right at home on a more up
tempo chart-type pop release or as an R'n'B diva. But the instrumentation on
this album is particularly mellow, intricate and subdued. What could be a
perfectly good Cafe del Mar style affair is completely overpowered by an
overemphasis on the vocals. Sorry.
Ejector Seat -
The Theme is Music Vol 1 Compilation
It's always difficult to review compilations - are you
supposed to summarise each artist, give an overview, comment on the
composition etc? Fortunately, Ejector Seat, two like-minded promoters on the
south coast of England seem to very much up tasty's street. Putting music on
for the sake of getting great bands heard by a wider audience is what it is
all about. Trying to make money out of artists who often have barely enough
cash to splash out on a roll of gaffer tape to strap together their battered
gear is not the way forward. And they even have similar tastes to the tasty
team - 65 Days of static, iLiKETRAiNS, Love Ends Disaster, Bearsuit
etc. We are a match made in heaven.
Which is why I am not going to
bother describing this CD in any great detail. Suffice to say it is of the
highest quality and at 17 tracks (which works out at 18p per band!) is a
must have. There is enough variety in style and pace to keep everyone happy
so get yourself to the Ejector Seat website and get buying.
Beach - Missing in
Action (Sliding Vinyl)
Following on from the savaging which I felt I had to dish out on the single
'Burning Up' this album does not get off to a brilliant start when the first
lyrics are 'Nothing's changed...'. So I braced myself for another trip into
medocrity and battled on.
On the plus side - this album
was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. The plus side of
writing formulaic guitar rock with 80's synth sensibilities is that chord
progressions never wander off, percussion is strictly reined in just to
provide greater punch to the rawk guitar and the bass will religiously
follow the chord progressions. Which is why stuff like this is so popular as
driving music or is played in shops or makes its way onto adverts. You don't
have to think about it, your reflexes simply take over, you find yourself
humming along, tapping a foot and eventually start drooling at the mouth.
On the downside, Beach
sounds like Bryan Ferry on tranquilisers (perhaps to help him forget all the
shenanigans that Ferry junior got up to in the Houses of Parliament). Perk
it up a bit Mr Beach (if I may call you that).
So fair play, he's self
recorded and written a pretty reasonable middle of the road album. But with
Mothers Day over and Christmas not for another 6 months, it's hard to see
which relatives you could palm this release off onto.
La Cedille - Vu Du
Large (Chocolate Fireguard)
Hip hop? French hip-hop? In tasty? I don't think so.